The bloody two year conflict in Syria has not let up for the holy month of Ramadan, with Syrian troops currently attacking a rebel-held region of Damascus. And as the intense video above shows, when tank warfare spills onto the city's thoroughfares, civilians have nowhere to go.
Reporter Jenan Moussa of Dubai's Al Aan TV tweeted the video, writing that it took place largely in the Barzeh neighborhood of Damascus. Barzeh is near the the neighborhood of Qaboun, in which 200 people were reportedly trapped in a mosque by shelling recently as loyalist forces advanced. Some 40,000 civilians remain in the two neighborhoods, which have been under seige for around seven months.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) July 15, 2013
The most striking moment of the video, which comes from the Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA), arrives around the 3:30 mark, when a small van drives directly into the middle of a tank formation during heavy shelling. After the driver makes it away—or at least out of frame—one of the tanks drives directly over a fence dividing the road. The group repeatedly shells buildings in all directions. Then, at 4:15, pair of trucks speeds by, right through the middle of the tank formation. It's a powerful portrait of urban warfare in Syria, and remember: this has been happening for two years now.
Four months ago, Motherboard's Leandro Oliva wrote about a series of Syrian Army tank videos posted by ANNA, a Russian-language news outlet from based in the disputed territory of Abkhazia on the Black Sea's east coast. As he noted then, ANNA has incredible access to Syrian President Bashard al-Assad's loyalist forces, and while it's not clear who shot the footage above, the GoPro-style footage of previous dispatches suggests ANNA is being fed footage directly from loyalist troops.
ANNA's access is, of course, beside the point. The looming question is how long the war will continue. The Free Syrian Army has made advances in the past, but the tide of the long conflict has shifted towards Assad's forces. President Obama pledged to provide rebels with arms about a month ago. That was a sizeable change in US policy, which until then largely amounted to public statements decrying the fighting.
But as the New York Times explained in a story yesterday, the US's support to rebels will likely be far more limited than announcements have suggested. And even then, it's unclear how long it will take to reach the ground. The CIA reportedly will provide training and munitions support to the Free Syrian Army, but training will take months at least to have an effect, and the agency isn't expected to provide much more than a limited amount of small arms.
The US is naturally being cautious, especially with Americans very wary of getting involved in any new Middle East conflicts. Yet until some outside agent changes the equation on the ground in Syria, it seems the long conflict—whose death toll has topped 100,000—will continue its violent grind.